A segment-leading Total Car Score for the 2012 Toyota Venza represents a triumph of packaging.
Somehow, the Venza can offer more maximum cargo space -- 70.2 cubic feet -- than some mainstream crossover vehicles. Yet it's also lower than most, making it easier for loading cargo into the back, or for stacking young kids into their car seats. For adults, entry and exit is neither a climb nor a crouch. The rear seats recline. And all these "just right" traits are wrapped up in a package that is sleeker and just plain tidier than an SUV.
Critics describe the Venza as family friendly, if not exactly thrilling to drive. But that's unlikely to be an issue for a prospective Venza buyer, who would much rather know that this vehicle has earned an overall four out of five stars in government crash tests and is a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
And anyway, the four-cylinder engine has enough power for most drivers' needs, while the smooth-running V6 is muscular without being overly thirsty.
The Venza debuted for the 2009 model year and sees no major changes for 2012, except for a re-designation of trim levels.
The five-seat 2012 Toyota Venza comes in LE, XLE and Limited trims, with front-wheel drive as standard and all-wheel drive available as an option throughout the range.
Engine choices start with a 2.7-liter four-cylinder making 182 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque, moving up to a 3.5-liter V6 with 268 hp and 246 lb-ft. Both link to a six-speed automatic. The Limited trim comes solely with the V6.
Equipment levels begin with dual-zone climate control, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, tinted glass, trip computer, automatic on/off headlights, Bluetooth, satellite radio, iPod interface and 17-inch alloy wheels. LE versions with the V6 get 20-inch alloys.
XLE brings a power liftgate, push-button start, heated front seats, leather upholstery and a rearview camera. The Limited has a panoramic sunroof, navigation and an upgraded sound system.
A towing package is optional, while lower trim levels may have some of the Limited's features.
Standard safety equipment includes ABS with brake assist and electronic brake force distribution plus a brake override feature, seven airbags including one for the driver's knees, hill start assist and active front head restraints.
EPA estimates for the 2012 Venza are 21 mpg city, 27 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined with the 2.4/front-drive setup. The same engine with all-wheel drive achieves 20/25/22 mpg. A V6/front-drive model returns 19/26/22 mpg or 18/25/21 mpg with all-wheel drive.
When equipped with the tow package and V6, the 2012 Toyota Venza is rated to tow up to 3,500 pounds.
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